What Are the Literary Elements to a Rhyming Poem?

Understanding the elements from which a rhyming poem is constructed could help you create your own pieces and improve your writing skills. Having an understanding of the structure and devices used in a rhyming poem can also help you analyze and interpret an author's work in greater depth.


One of the most significant literary elements in a rhyming poem is the way in which words rhyme. A full rhyme is what most people would recognize as a rhyme, such as between cat and hat. A half rhyme is one in which the words nearly rhyme, such as lap and lamp. Other types of rhyming include rich rhymes, which is when a word is rhymed with another word that sounds the same, like hear and here. Identical rhymes are when the same word is rhymed with itself, and an eye rhyme is when a word looks the same but does not sound like it rhymes, like love and move. Rhymes are normally at the end of a line but can also be placed in the middle of it or between stanzas. Where the rhyme is placed is often dependent on the form of the poem.


Assonance is a similar literary element to rhyme as it relates words through their sound. However, it does not necessarily have to be present in a rhyming poem. Assonant words are ones that share vowels; for instance, the phrase "thrown in a hollowed bowl" repeats the vowel "o" in most of the words. This technique can be used within a line, throughout a stanza or even the whole poem. Sometimes assonant words make half rhymes and, as such, can be used at the end of a line in a rhyming poem.


Alliteration is similar to assonance in that it describes the repeated use of a certain letter. However, in this case, the repetition would be seen in a consonant. For example, the phrase "it attacked the tarmac" has alliteration on both the "t" sound and the "c" sound, which gives a rhyming sound. Like assonance, alliteration can be used on one line, within a stanza or across the whole poem. Furthermore, it can also be used to make half rhymes, such as attacked and tarmac.


The way that rhymes are organized in a poem is based on what form the piece takes. This structure is also defined as a literary element. For instance, if the last word of the first and second line rhyme, the last word of the third and fourth line rhyme and so on, it would be said that the poem consisted of rhyming couplets. If alternate lines end on a rhyme (for instance, lines one and three rhyme, and lines two and four rhyme) this would be described as an intermittent rhyme. There are some forms that require the writer to adhere to strict rules when rhyming. For instance, a Shakespearean sonnet has three stanzas of four lines that use intermittent rhyme and finishes with a rhyming couplet.


The literary element of meter can be important when writing rhyming poetry, as it can affect where the rhymes fall. Meter is a term that describes how many stresses, or beats, there are in a line. Each stress is called a foot. Shakespeare often wrote in iambic pentameter. This means that he used 10 syllables in a line, which made up five types of feet called iambs. Iambs consist of two syllables with the stress falling on the last --- forming a da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM rhythm. A troche is a different type of foot that does the exact opposite of the iamb. It creates a DA-dum sound, where the stress is place on the first syllable of each pair of syllables.

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